The Maui Planning Commission unanimously approved an 85-foot tower with five antennas for West Maui that will serve as a backup in emergencies, reported The Maui News. One caveat is that the tower will not be designed for 5G technology.
The county Department of Public Works applied for a special use permit to replace the Maui Police Department’s Makila communications facility. The News reported project documents noted the new facility would be used “exclusively by government agencies with MPD as the primary user.” The new facility will also have the capability to communicate with MPD’s existing facilities in other areas.
“Public safety communications, local government communications . . . has to be protected,” said Walter Pacheco, MPD communications coordinator. “It has to be robust enough, and it needs to have enough failback or alternate routes to be able to maintain when everything else is not operating. This is what this tower is about.”
Despite the public safety need, some residents opposed the project, penning 57 protest letters. Complaints indicated that opponents were concerned that the tower would open the door for 5G, among other worries, reported the News.
“I’m concerned about agricultural land being used for wireless radiation towers that have been shown to damage plants and animals and insects, all of which are necessary for agriculture,” said Debra Greene, who testified at the meeting in opposition of the project. “I’m concerned about the disruption of the aesthetics. . . . I’m concerned about the reduced property values.”
Pacheco explained that the point-to-point microwave technology that the facility would use “is essentially a link between two specific locations” to move information between sites. This differs from how 5G works, sending data from cell towers to phones. He added that the frequencies intended for the tower (ranging from 6 to 18 gigahertz) are different from 5G bands.
Commissioner Kawika Freitas commented on the necessity of the tower project. “Sorry that this is going to block the view of some people, but safety of our residents is very important,” he said.